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What Employers Want

Young people are taught by educators not employers, so the employers must be specific about what they mean by communication and self management skills. An open-source skills taxonomy will set the foundation of understanding between all parties

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23 16

Written by DeletedUser

Every employer survey since the CBI's 1989 report has shown two things:

1. employers' emphasis on the importance of employability skills and

2. continued dissatisfaction with particular "soft" skills required in every workplace e.g. communication and business/customer awareness.

Employers want applicants with employability skills, but the definition of these skills varies from company to company, and even departments within the same company. For schools, colleges and universities, without a clear definition, they are unable to teach and assess "employability skills" because it will never fit into their required "learning outcomes assessment criteria" frameworks. This results in academia being unable to deliver what the majority of students want: "a nationally recognised record of the employability skills you have developed..."(CBI/NUS, 2011)

Almost half of students say that the importance of employability hasn't been explained to them during their time at university (CBI/NUS 2011), while universities are admitting that they aren't best equipped to teach employability without more input from employers (MMU Employability and Citizenship Conference 2012).

Instead of asking employers if they are happy with, for example, graduates' communication skills we propose a 3 phase solution to these problems:

1: Defining employability

2: Training for employability

3: Hiring on employability


Example Scenarios:

Scenario 1:

An employer has a few dozen apprenticeships available for the coming year but gets 9000 applications. To narrow down this number in order to look for candidates it wants to interview, it has to reluctantly reject the majority of applications based purely on the number of 'A's achieved in school exams. As exam grades have continued to rise, this method is becoming even less effective and the employer (in this case, National Grid) acknowledges this, but at the moment sees no viable alternative.

The implementation of this concept will give this employer exactly what it needs: a finer grained differentiator that measures work skills rather than just academic qualifications.

Scenario 2:

Mark is a young person who has never been great at exams. He's a hard worker, so he's been able to pass, but his grades have never been great. On Saturdays he works in a shop and has built a great rapport with the customers, and on Sunday's he plays for the village football team for which he also acts as club secretary. He is looking for a job but is finding that his average exam results are eliminating him before interview for all but the lowest paid jobs.

The implementation of this concept will give Mark a better way to gain the attention of employers: His Saturday job and work at the football club have resulted in much better than average "marks" in communication skills, business and customer awareness, teamwork and leadership etc. An enlightened employer using the system will find and chose Mark over hundreds of straight-A students who don't have the same initiative/real-world skills. 



The Three Things the Panel Wished to be Explored Further:

1) How will it scale?

One of the best things about this concept is that Phases 1 and 3 scale very well through the use of web technologies and the fact that a common curriculum/rubrick/taxonomy will cover the whole country. An idea management system (such as OpenIDEO!) will be used for Phase-1 and a secure, database-driven web site/service for Phase-3. 

A perfect example of something being performed in a particular industry is the Bloomberg Assessment Test (BAT) and we encourage fellow OpenIDEO folks to check it out for inspiration :https://www.bloomberginstitute.com/bat/start/

We have met with the Bloomberg people in London and been shown what they are doing first hand. It's most impressive and the concept is a perfect base on which to build a similar solution for employability skills.

The middle phase (delivery and assessment) doesn't benefit so directly from online tools, but is still very scalable at the "human" level due to the fact that there are already dozens (hundreds?) of individual employability initiatives throughout the country and some are very good indeed. Leveraging this existing "infrastructure" and the increasing number of business people wishing to "give back" by sharing their hard-earned experience, makes the proposition very scalable indeed.

Last month Carole & John were invited to meet with Lord Tim Clement-Jones as he has a particular interest in this area. Tea and cake at the House of Lords was wonderful, but his advice (and Anna's in the comments) was even better: Start small and, because the concept is so good, give it the space to snowball. Find three or four school/uni - employer pairs and allow the Government to host a launch event in Westminster to give the concept it's blessing and have Skills Minister John Hayes say a few words. [Update: As of this morning's cabinet reshuffle (5th Sept) John Hayes is now Energy Minister. We will therefore approach Matthew Hancock or Vince Cable directly or via an introduction from Tim].


2) How can we include young people who have already left school?

Back to the idea of scalability, if employability skills are on the curriculum at school then the solution is (relatively) neat, and - after hearing Carole's elevator pitch at an event - Michael Gove has asked for a meeting to explore how this could work. However, once people have left school then the provision of the skills teaching and assessment can still be provided by the private sector possibliy in collaboration with local Colleges/Universities.

An organisation like the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (http://www.aelp.org.uk/) is perfectly placed to help coordinate this and Graham Hoyle OBE is already enthusiastic about the idea. With a common taxonomy to work to, suddenly service providers will no longer be a heterogeneous collection of 100s of small outfits, but will become a powerful coalition working towards the same goal.

An "after school" club format is one idea to help young people who have just left school but which could be run on local company premises, co hosted by either the local council or an approved skills provider with young people self selecting based on their preferred industry. This concept comes back to the idea of employers being involved in the delivery and assessment of the skills at school and higher education level. Hosting skills evenings, again in collaboration and with the support of learning providers or Colleges/Universities would offer employers and local councils a low-cost opportunity to engage in outreach.


3) Can we think of a better name?

We believe we have a plan to progress all aspects of this concept, yet ironically this simple yet most important of tasks has so far proved beyond us! "Employability Taxonomy Initiative" is neither catchy nor descriptive, so we appeal to fellow OpenIDEO members and the challenge sponsors for help.  One idea would be to find a pronounceable acronym which included the name of the organisation willing to sponsor the initiative e.g. Barclays Employability Taxonomy (BET), but better! 


Update - Anna Haaland in the comments has kindly set the ball rolling with some three-letter acronym suggestions. We have also have an offline suggestion of GET (Generic Employability Taxonomy) which has the advantage of being an 'action' word.


Experts consulted so far:

Anne Tipple OBE - National Skills Executive, British Chambers of Commerce
James Fothergill - Head of Education and Skills, CBI
John Cowen - Skills Directorate, Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Sir Deian Hopkin - President of the National Library of Wales, Ex-Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University
John Fairhurst - Ex-President of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
Dr. Janet Hannah, Director of Coventry University London Campus (CULC)



How will your concept support young people as they transition into the world of work?

Phase 1: Defining employability Young people and educators know employers want employability skills but they are not provided with sufficient information to know exactly what employers mean by "communication skills" and "self management skills". With a detailed, public domain taxonomy crowd-sourced by a wide range of UK employers, schools, colleges and universities have exactly what was proposed at the 2005 JISC CETIS conference: "Break down skills into smaller parts until they are no longer disagreed on". Phase 2: Training for employability With the complete taxonomy/rubric created in Phase 1, publicly available as open source, educators and employers can develop employability training which makes sense both in the classroom and in the work place. Because of its nature, the assessment of a student’s employability skills cannot simply be a single letter grade or even a percentage score. The student’s performance must be assessed, and marks exposed, for each of the individual dimensions exposed in Phase 1. Phase 3: Hiring on employability With a successful conclusion of Phase 2, students will not only have a nationally recognized record of their employability skills, but the granularity of the assessment will be such that it will address two of the main issues employers have when hiring new graduates: • Existing academic qualifications are no longer considered a good differentiator of candidates. • Different employers value different employability skills. If a graduate’s employability skills “grade” is exposed to employers not simply as an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ etc., but as a set of marks, one for each sub-skill identified in Phase 1, then a student’s final grade can be customized to each employer’s requirements. From the same assessment, a graduate could be a “pass” for McDonalds, but a “fail” for KPMG because of the different weights employers give to the individual employability skills. A simple prototype to demonstrate how this “weighted assessment” would work can be found at: http://www.sbskills.com/taxotest/ First action steps for Phase-1 1) Meet with Michael Gove to get his buy-in and suggestions of how it can fit into the school curriculum (which is a tighter fit than higher education). 2) Select and prime an idea management system. 3) Choose the lead school/uni + employer pairs. 4) Government sponsored launch event in Westminster with invitations to (at least) members of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), BCC (British Chambers of Commerce), ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), Universities UK, and all relevant APPGs (All-Party Parliamentary Groups).

What online or in-person components of your concept will best support this transition?

During Phase-1, the public domain taxonomy will be crowd sourced using a combination of face-to-face interviews and an online idea management system. A prototype of such an online system has been created at www.etaxo.org with screenshots in the Images & Videos section of this concept. Following a meeting with, and advice from, Anne Tipple OBE, National Skills Executive at the British Chambers of Commerce, we believe that during this phase the face-to-face employer engagement will be more successful than the online component. This is due to the latter being seen by many employers as just “another survey to fill in”. Of course, this effect could be mitigated somewhat with a high-profile sponsor and government buy-in. In Phase-2, the training and assessment of employability skills will be predominately offline with ‘only’ the entering skills evaluations being online. However, once this concept is established, one can envisage an increasing number of online components such as a repository of knowledge/tools to support this phase. Phase-3 will rely on an online component which employers can use to weight the skills they require for different roles within their company and filter potential employees based on these. This is a much sharper instrument than trying to differentiate on the basis of the one-dimensional grades in “academic” exams. A simple prototype of this – using only 3 skills “dimensions - has been created at http://www.sbskills.com/taxotest/. Once established, this online component of Phase-3 can be easily developed to allow employers to expose their skills requirements for different roles. This will allow job hunters to “shop” for a role that will suit them based on how well their skills profile “score” matches role requirements.

My Virtual Team

I'd like to acknowledge the following, without whose ideas, advice, and timely input, this concept would have never got off the ground: John Hamlen Sir Deian Hopkin John Cowan Lord Tim Clement-Jones CBE Anne Tipple OBE Dr. Janet Hannah

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. IMPACT & REACH: How much impact and reach do you think this concept could have in helping young people transition into the world of work?

A great deal – something like this would really make a difference - 25%

A moderate amount – it’s certainly helpful but probably not a game-changer - 75%

Not very much – it’s unlikely to make a significant difference to young people seeking work - 0%

2. FEASIBILITY & RESOURCES: Thinking about the resources needed to implement this concept, how feasible will it be for your community to turn this concept into a reality? (Hint: when you think about resources, think: people, money, time, technology, infrastructure, partnerships and any other inputs for implementation)

Highly feasible – resources wouldn’t be an issue for my community if we tried to implement this - 25%

Moderately feasible – my community could do it if we could get find assistance with some of our resource constraints - 75%

Not feasible – it would be almost impossible for my community to implement this concept; it's just too resource-intensive - 0%

3. SUSTAINABILITY & LONGEVITY: Does this concept feel like it could be sustained as a project, business or movement over years rather than just months? Will continue to be relevant in future?

Yes – this concept has enough momentum to stand on its own two feet and remain relevant for years to come - 50%

Maybe – it’s not clear how long it would take for this concept to stand on its own feet or how it will continue to be but there’s reason to feel hopeful - 50%

No – this concept will have trouble sustaining itself in the long-run and probably won’t be as relevant in years to come - 0%

4. ORIGINALITY: How new or innovative is this idea? Are there many different versions of this concept out there already or is this something more disruptive and unique?

Very original – I’ve not seen anything else quite like it - 50%

Fairly original – there are similar things out there but this particular version brings a new element to the table - 25%

Unoriginal – there are already too many other concepts out there that are similar to this one - 25%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world - 25%

I liked it but preferred others - 75%

It didn't get me overly excited - 0%

View more

Attachments (2)

employability-taxonomy-v0.06-openideo.pdf

An initial employability skills taxonomy which can be used to seed the process in Phase-1

23 comments

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Photo of Ahmad Amr
Team

Hi, is there any progress with a software that can do this type of weighted assessment?

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DeletedUser

Congratulations to the 6 winning concepts! Very well deserved for such a diverse mixture of ideas. If Carole or I can help you with any information or introductions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at www.sbskills.com.

Good luck everyone with the hardest, but most satisfying part: the execution!

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DeletedUser

I love this idea because it hits exactly the right target at the interface between employers and the unemployed.

Last week, Hastings Borough Council ran a conference called "Ready Willing and Able". This looked at youth unemployment with a focus on improving links between schools and employers. The consistent message from employers was that they valued attitude and "soft" skills more than technical and academic ability. "If he or she has the righ attitude, we can teach the practical skills". this is especially true when thinking of the kinds of young people least likely to walk into jobs.

Yesterday I spoke to young people at a youth centre. All had "failed" at school and/or college. All said "We haven't got GCSE's or NVQ's, so we can't even tick the right box that will get us an interview."

This proposal can build up and validate the actual life and communication skills that employers want. It would be easy to implement by schools (especially if they are given space in the curriculum and/or told to integrate it with other learning as they must with literacy and numeracy). It could equally well be done by community learning bodies, college, or the voluntary sector.

It could add value of a tangible qualification to a lot of youth activities such as sports, arts and volunteering.

There is a methodological challenge in how to objectively evaluate soft skills and attitudes. It should include basic (level 1) numeracy and literacy. And yes, a catchy name. With these, I belive it would rapidly become both popular and essential with employers and young people alike.

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DeletedUser

Hi Glyn,
Thanks very much for the wonderful feedback!

I do like the title of the Hastings conference you went to:
Young people are "ready" in their millions, "willing" is a question mark for too many, but for those who are,, the "able" will almost take care of itself. Karan Bilimoria has a great saying in this regard. He says "I hire based on 'will' not 'skill'" and has examples to back it up.

"We haven't got GCSE's or NVQ's, so we can't even tick the right box that will get us an interview." - Isn't that a sad thing to hear, especially when the actual skills gained passing those qualifications aren't going to make them better in the jobs they are trying to interview for!

Yes I agree with you re: the recognition of activities such as sports, arts and volunteering. The "only" thing we need to do it to quantify these accomplishments so employers can more easily use them to differentiate between candidates.

Re: catchy name, we are going with "What Employers Want" and are going to publish a book of the same title in the new year. Watch this space!

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DeletedUser

Hello Carole, I find your concept highly feasible, viable, usable and desirable. I so hope for your success. My apologies for making comments just 3 days before the end of the contest. I wonder if you might consider, to cover all bases, answering the 5 Drucker Questions about your concept? I think perhaps you will be asked these questions in some form, by someone, at some time.

What is our mission? Assumed "To equip young people with the skills, information and opportunities to succeed in the world of work."

Who is our customer? This is a most difficult question as their are many who would benefit. Just for a moment though, what if you assume the customer is a concept sponsor-Barclay's

What does the customer value? How, specifically will this concept improve the key performance indicators for Barclay's? http://reports.barclays.com/ar11/financialreview/keyperformanceindicators.html?cat=b#acc4

What are our results? Will your metrics be tied to those of Barclay's?

What is our plan?I think you already have this, but will it change as a result of considering the customer, Barclay's annual report?

Cheers and good luck!

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DeletedUser

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your kind words. We really believe in this and are glad you feel the same.

Yes, we too like to use the lens of Drucker's 5 Questions, particularly as he is a bit of a hero of mine!

However, although focus is important, I would hesitate to put Barclays forward as the (only) customer or worry about what positive things can be printed in its annual report after the success of this project.

Yes, success of the initiative will be good for Barclays' in this respect, but I trust that Barclays will see it as a (very welcome) side effect of a successful execution, rather than the primary objective.

Thanks again,
Carole

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DeletedUser

Agreed Carole. Bob is of course correct from a classic "business consulting" point of view. However, but it could be counter-productive in evaluating (most of) the concepts submitted for this this challenge. Besides, I love to remind myself that companies like Google, started with a great idea but no obvious "route to revenue", ..... and Google hasn't done too badly.

Taking this concept as an example, working on some model of how to charge employers, educational institutions, and students for use of the system will kill it before it even gets started, and quite rightly so!

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DeletedUser

Hi John, Hi Bob,

Thanks for your comments.

I agree with you, John, that planning to charge for such a service is premature and inappropriate. Google was born from a cool idea and didn't make any money until well after it was delivering benefits from its cool ideas.

The whole intention of this initiative (or if you will, cool idea) is to "break down skills into smaller parts until they are no longer disagreed on" so that educators can develop employability skills teaching and assessment frameworks to create precisely what students are looking for ie "a nationally recognised record of the employability skills you have developed..."(CBI/NUS, 2011). Any further benefits will flow from successful delivery of this initiative.

The prototype is ready for populating, there is a growing number of interested parties and I am ready to take on the challenge to ensure this crowd generated open sourced solution does exactly what is intended.

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DeletedUser

Naming of the concept:
As mentioned before, this has been one of the hardest challenges for us. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the Assistant Business Editor of a Sunday broadsheet. I explained our "employability taxonomy" concept to him and his response was effectively: great idea, I'd be interested in learning more with a view to doing a story, but what a bad name! Then, with the journalistic flair of getting straight to the point he said: "What you're talking about is 'What Employers Want'".

He's right!

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DeletedUser

A very helpful and new concept. In today's economic climate it is essential for us to be employable and capable of securing employment, but there is a lot of confusion what employers are really looking for.
Having a conversation with them will help trainers and Universities to prepare their graduates more efficiently to deal with demands and expectations of different organisations.
I only wish that this concept had been introduced years earlier.

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DeletedUser

Thank you for your support Edit.

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DeletedUser

This concept will benefit millions of people if adopted by uk system because it links the gap between the right job for the right person

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DeletedUser

Thank you for your optimism Frixos. We share it!

Photo of Ashley Jablow
Team

Really thoughtful analysis and concept Carole. At its core, your idea is about language, communication and setting clear expectations for everyone to understand. Sounds like a win/win/win to me!

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Ashley. You're right, 'language' is a good description. I feel that there often needs to be translation between 'academic speak' and 'business speak'. This 'translation' is a big part of this concept.

Thanks again for your input and confirming that we're on the right track. Have a great week!

Photo of Paul Reader
Team

Agreed this is useful for those who didn't get the language and communication fundamentals from school. Also points up the need to go back to basics in the lower end of education.

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Team

DeletedUser

I think the question on how to get the already-left-school kids involved has been answered so for the rest...
Absolutely, using the web to create and socialize the body of work makes perfect sense. Then, once built, you could deliver this as a pilot program with a specific company, preferably a big enough one to garner some media attention as it gets under way and one with multiple outlets/stores/facilities to model how the program could be propagated across geographies. Working with one company can be easier in the initial stages and help guarantee an early success. Since the model requires broad acceptance of a common taxonomy, the early and public adoption by a "brand-name" company also gives you the buzz needed to spur further development and interest.
Naturally, this assumes that you've solved the thorny issue of what to call this sorely needed program, so that you can market it accordingly. Maybe these will help start the process:
BET - Business and Employability Terms
CLE - Common Language for Employability
CBT- Common Business Terms

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DeletedUser

Thanks very much for such positive and useful feedback.
We got invited to have tea with Tim Clement-Jones at the House of Lords as he has a strong interest in this area. His feedback was similar to yours and went along the lines of: It's a great idea so 'all' you need to do is get started small and it will snowball from there.He favoured identifying school/uni + employer pairs and then launching with the Government's blessing at a Government hosted event in Westminster. We'll update the text of the concept to reflect this conversation today. Many thanks for reminding us of this idea.
Of course Barclays is just the sort of "brand-name" company you describe and one of the challenge sponsors, so fingers crossed! I used to work for Barclays but haven't approached them about this yet.
Thanks for kicking off the name brainstorm. I like the idea of a three-letter acronym. Isn't it funny how important finding a good name is!

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We're currently facing a bug which may prevent you from being able to directly update your concept post. Our developers are busy working on it. Meanwhile, if you're wanting to iterate your ideas, you can use the comments feature to promote further conversation from others. We'll let you know once the bug is fixed, then you can incorporate your refinement moves into your concept post. Let's be agile, together!

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Right on! Our development team have been busy fixing the Update Entry bug and we're back on track now. You'll now be able to edit your posts to add all that refinement-goodness to build out your concepts for improved impact. Bring it on, together!

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Congrats on this idea moving on to our Youth Employment Challenge Refinement phase Top 20!

WHAT THE EXPERT PANEL LIKED:
The panel appreciated the effort that has clearly gone into researching this concept and strongly support the idea of common language/taxonomy so that there's more transparency between employers and jobseekers. They also applaud the fact it highlights that academic qualifications are no longer a good differentiator of candidates – there needs to be something more, which this concept could start to tackle.

WHAT THE EXPERT PANEL WOULD LOVE TO SEE EXPLORED:
The main questions from the panel are 1) do you have any thoughts on how this idea could be delivered at scale? And 2) How could you develop this to include young people who have already left school? And, some of us feel it could do with a slightly catchier name ;-)

For more tips on how to iterate and prototype your idea during the Refinement phase, check this update on how the shortlist was chosen http://bit.ly/youth-top20 and and the Lowdown on Refinement: http://bit.ly/oi_refine

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DeletedUser

Initial thoughts on the panel's follow-up questions:

1) Scalability: Good question! There are dozens (hundreds?) of individual employability initiatives throughout the country and some are very good indeed. However, any sort of a accreditation/award at a "local" level naturally has proportionally less value than something nationally recognised. Scalability is therefore key.

One of the nice things about this concept is that it is eminently scalable using web technologies and the fact that a common curriculum/rubrick/taxonomy will cover the whole country. A perfect example of something being performed in a particular industry is the Bloomberg Assessment Test (BAT) and I encourage fellow OpenIDEO folks to check it out for inspiration: https://www.bloomberginstitute.com/bat/start/
I have met with the Bloomberg people in London and been shown what they are doing first hand. It's most impressive and the concept is a perfect base on which to build a similar solution for employability skills.

2) Including young people who have left school: Back to the idea of scalability, if employability skills are on the curriculum at school then the solution is (relatively) neat, and I understand that Carole is going to be meeting with Michael Gove to explore how this could work. However, once people have left school then the provision of the skills teaching and assessment can be provided by the private sector.. An organisation like the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (http://www.aelp.org.uk/) is perfectly placed to help coordinate this and Graham Hoyle OBE is already enthusiastic about the idea. With a common taxonomy to work to, suddenly service providers will no longer be a heterogeneous collection of 100s of small outfits, but will become a powerful coalition working towards the same goal.

3) A proper name: This is important, and sadly quite hard! I hope the creativity of OpenIDEO members can be brought to bear on this. My initial suggestion would to find a pronounceable acronym which included the name of the organisation willing to sponsor the initiative e.g. Barclays Employability Taxonomy (BET), but better!

Many thanks,
John

http://www.theworkfoundation.com/Reports/273/Employability-and-Skills-in-the-UK-Redefining-the-debate

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DeletedUser

Further thoughts on the scale-ability: 1) If the skills required are broken down by the employers into smaller parts until they are no longer disagreed on then we can process the skills descriptors into learning outcomes which can be taught at all levels in the education system. Quality assurance can be ensured if employers are willing to get involved in the delivery of the skills & assessment of the skills at school higher education levels. Education institutions at all levels ought to be working with employers so having an employability theme running through the education programmes should provide the perfect opportunity for engagement between academia and industry. Using an industry recognised standard skills taxonomy will ensure everyone is on the same page. I agree the Bloomberg BAT test is a great example.

2) Involving young people who have already left school: An "after school" club format is one idea to help young people who have just left school but which could be run on local company premises, co hosted by either the local council or an approved skills provider with young people self selecting based on their preferred industry. This concept comes back to the idea of employers being involved in the delivery and assessment of the skills at school and higher education level. Hosting skills evenings would offer employers and local councils an opportunity to engage in outreach.

3): An employability taxonomy is not very catchy is it! We're open to acronym ideas to give it a much more catchy name.

Best regards,
Carole